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_downpour_
Apr. 9, 2009, 03:58 AM
I'm curious... please tell me, what is it actually like being on the 'A' circuit? details too please, if you don't mind? Thanks!

eta


I think the OP was asking what its like to "live" on the circuit, particularly what a typical week or month is for someone like CBoylen. Otherwise, I can tell you that I have been to some large, unrated "fairs" where there is more activity, competition and hoopla than some A shows.


yes, that's exactly what I was meaning... sorry, I should have been more specific about it. Such as: what do kids in school do while living on the circuit re: school? Also, college students? Do parents usually travel with their children, if so how do they make a living? How long are you away from home at a time? Where do the horses stay - on the showgrounds all the time? Even when not showing? Do you show every day, for how many weeks? Do you travel between states, if so, how, flying, driving?? How many horses do you typically take away? What's it like for the grooms, how many of them? How long do you typically stay at one show for before you move onto the next? Do you stay in hotels or with the horses?

all the good stuff like that!

je.suis
Apr. 9, 2009, 07:02 AM
It's like going to work each day at a regular job. This one has uniforms! You travel with friends you have known for years and meet new ones along the way. Early mornings, often long waits, tough competition, some disappointments, pushing yourself in spite of how you may feel that day and total commitment to riding. Nothing better than being outdoors on a glorious day and nothing worse than the cold and rain. Packing, unpacking. Social events are mainly for charity but many casual weekend parties. Tremendous ammount of work and without an excellent staff, great horses and a competent,knowledgeable trainer, none of it is possible. But oh so worth it !

ProzacPuppy
Apr. 9, 2009, 07:52 AM
Also, very expensive.

Lucassb
Apr. 9, 2009, 08:19 AM
downpour, the "A circuit" is just a bunch of horseshows. Some of them are big (think WEF) and some not so big... but although you can and do see some very gifted riders and wonderful horses there, there are also plenty of others who could easily be showing against you locally. There are more people than you may think who are doing the "A circuit" on a budget, skipping the fancy parties and the extravagant set ups and just working quite hard to play in the big sandbox, either in hopes of becoming a big name themselves or perhaps because their business is supplying horses to the bigger names, and that is the way they get shown and sold.

The level of turnout overall is perhaps a bit higher than average, depending on where you show locally; the horses are rubbed on by professional grooms and the trainers tend to have very organized programs - but this is also something that can be duplicated at home, simply by putting the time and effort in. Very few private owners spend as much time with a rub rag as a professional groom does, and the horses reflect the difference.

For me, the most interesting part of those shows is watching the schooling rings. Seeing the lessons and warmups done by the top professionals, watching really good riders schooling their horses, and then seeing the performance that that preparation delivers in the ring is terrific.

Mostly, doing the circuit is about long hours, hard work and - if you are lucky - some wonderful moments where the horse feels and goes really well, your eye is on the money and you impress the judges enough to earn a good prize. There is camaraderie in the barns most of the time and it is fun to be around people who are just as horse-crazy as you are. There are also early mornings and late nights and digging trenches so your tent doesn't flood when it rains... as I said, at the end of the day - they are just horseshows. :)

supershorty628
Apr. 9, 2009, 08:24 AM
Lucassb said it perfectly. :)

Andrew
Apr. 9, 2009, 08:29 AM
ditto



Lucassb said it perfectly. :)

cbiscuit
Apr. 9, 2009, 09:35 AM
It's the Rich People Circus.

diva4ever
Apr. 9, 2009, 09:52 AM
It's the Rich People Circus.

Not necessarily...it depends on where you are and what "A" circuit and also what you define as "rich". Although my barn is located in WI, they show mainly in the IL "A" circuit. All of the borders are very hard working individuals that have good jobs (knock on wood) to pay for our beloved creatures and our habits. So yes, some are more well off than others and can afford to show more easily than others, but I wouldn't necessarily classify anyone at my barn as being "rich," rather "well off" and "financially stable."

This might be different in some of the larger venues like CA and NY.

For the Horse
Apr. 9, 2009, 09:55 AM
I have mostly just played at the local level. I have however dabbled into the "A"s on occasion. My take away is that the "A" shows are not about horsemanship. They are about spending the money to play in the big leagues and sometimes getting it right. This is not to say that there are not good horsemen (and women) at this level! The focus is just not on the horses health and happiness as much as I would like it to be.

Giddy-up
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:09 AM
Not quite sure what the OP is looking for here.

I show the local A circuit on a budget doing my own care. Not really the glitz & glamour of going to WEF & Devon & the Hampton Classic & Indoors that perhaps the OP is wanting to hear about?

Luckily I live between 2 large facilities that host AA shows as well as unrated shows. A show is a show--just depends what your goals are. The A shows tend to cost more, but depending on your class they might offer prize money so if you win maybe not so much cost. The A shows tend to be spread out over more days rather than just Sat/Sun. The A shows tend to attract the "bigger names" of horses & riders & trainers which is fun to see. The A shows will have the bigger name judges & course designers. The jumps are nicer than what you find at the unrated shows & the rings maintained better. The A shows will offer bigger classes (you won't find a $30K GP at the unrateds) which again is fun to spectate.

dags
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:12 AM
I have mostly just played at the local level. I have however dabbled into the "A"s on occasion. My take away is that the "A" shows are not about horsemanship. They are about spending the money to play in the big leagues and sometimes getting it right. This is not to say that there are not good horsemen (and women) at this level! The focus is just not on the horses health and happiness as much as I would like it to be.

Not a fair evaluation. The time for focusing on horsey health and happiness is not at the in-gate. The A Circuit goes much farther beyond what you see at the ring, and 9 times out of 10 the thought put into the horse's health, comfort and soundness will far exceed that which you see at the local levels. It's just done and taken care of before the horse ever steps foot on the show grounds.

ExJumper
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:17 AM
I have mostly just played at the local level. I have however dabbled into the "A"s on occasion. My take away is that the "A" shows are not about horsemanship. They are about spending the money to play in the big leagues and sometimes getting it right. This is not to say that there are not good horsemen (and women) at this level! The focus is just not on the horses health and happiness as much as I would like it to be.

There are just as many bad local level trainers as there are bad A circuit trainers. I'd hazard to say more, actually, because local level trainers aren't under the sort of scrutiny and publicity as the upper level trainers are. And since you, by your own admission, haven't done much on the A circuit, perhaps you should wait until you have a little more information before you decide that the focus isn't on the "health and happiness of the horse."

Showing is an unnatural environment no matter where you show or at what level, and I've personally seen more mis-management at local level shows than at A shows. There are people who show many many weeks a year at the local level. I've seen them go in 15 classes a day and never get off their horse. There are people who show many many weeks a year at the A level, and their horses go in 2-3 classes a day and have impeccable care between days and between shows.

But now I deserve a slap on the wrist because I've jumped to conclusions based on the limited experiences I've had at the local level. Just like you did with the A circuit.

pines4equines
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:21 AM
Poking my head in here, I used to groom on the A-circuit when I was in high school. And, that was fun!

You could sneak into the exhibitor parties, sneak free food from the food tents because your boss didn't pay you enough and the ladies at the tents allowed it, be cool with your last minute dust rag hanging out of your back pocket and your can (at that time) motor oil to paint their feet before entering the ring...(I know, I know about the motor oil but everyone did it back then. We all had a coffee can with a homemade wire handle and a paint brush inside. It wasn't a good thing! Maybe they still do that now?)

This was all in 1979. We did Mt. Snow, Stoneleigh Burnham was that Mason Phelps, and a ton of others that I can't remember the names. Jack Rockwell of The Hill (now Old Salem) was my boss and he had this snarly trailer that he had all of us sleeping in.

Lots of big time actors brought their kids to show and we saw Paul Newman, Charles Bronson and a few others that I can't remember.

I was actually the groom the owners requested so that was a nice feather in my cap at the time...

eqrider1234
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:27 AM
I have mostly just played at the local level. I have however dabbled into the "A"s on occasion. My take away is that the "A" shows are not about horsemanship. They are about spending the money to play in the big leagues and sometimes getting it right. This is not to say that there are not good horsemen (and women) at this level! The focus is just not on the horses health and happiness as much as I would like it to be.

I dont believe it is fair to say this. I used to do mainly A shows just about once a month, but now with the economy my parents and I decided it would be best to stay with the unrated shows or B and c shows and schooling shows that have marshall and sterling classes so I can focus on qualifying and we can stay witihin our budget. Just like dags said the horses are done at home not at at the in-gate. They look in such tip top shape because of all the work that is put into them. I personally groom my horse everyday and put hours of work into her, as do many others I know who show on the A circut. As far as im concerned doing both local shows A shows B shows C shows, a show is a show, you have people that do it halfass at schooling shows and you have people that do it halfass at AA shows. Then you have people who do it top notch at both, so it isnt really fair to classify and steriotype people that show on the A circut as people who are rich and snobby and dont take care of their horses.

Lucassb
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:33 AM
In my experience, the care provided to horses that show on the A circuit far exceeds that which is provided to the majority of horses in other situations.

They are very meticulously looked after as a rule, with regular attention from a variety of top notch professionals. Their feed, exercise and grooming routines are usually first class; they are attended to by very competent farriers, vets, massage therapists etc as a matter of course. You don't just "feed the quarters" into them to get them looking as shiny and gorgeous as most of them are at the top levels, and although there are always a few bad apples in the bunch (detailed in the penalties section of Equestrian magazine) the great majority of the horses succeeding at the A shows got there through lots and lots of hours of diligent practice and effort.

I've posted a pic of my young horse who "lives on the A circuit," (without me, I might add, since I have to work hard at my regular full time job to afford him.) I got him as a three year old and he's been under saddle for a little more than a year now; he has had very, very good prizes in the pre-greens at WEF this year, including a second against a huge class (60+) of the nicest youngsters in the country.

He lives in my trainer's backyard when he's not showing. Yes, a regular backyard... there is a small barn, a small ring, and a small paddock area behind his ranch-style home, I doubt it is more than a couple of acres total. There is a working student and a part time person who helps with the stalls, and my trainer does the rest of the work himself. Not exactly the high powered set up that folks like cbiscuit and for the horse seem to imply is the rule. And there are lots more set ups like that one than there are big fancy barns where you can just "write a big check."

Mel0309
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:36 AM
There are people who show many many weeks a year at the local level. I've seen them go in 15 classes a day and never get off their horse. \

But now I deserve a slap on the wrist because I've jumped to conclusions based on the limited experiences I've had at the local level. Just like you did with the A circuit.

Definitely not jumping to conclusions. There is a girl on the local circuit here that goes in 44 classes over two days. Yes, 22 classes on Saturday, and 22 classes on Sunday. Classes from the 2ft jumpers to the 2'6 hunters and everything in between. She was the lucky winner of the year end award for the most points. :sigh:

I think you see bad horsemanship no matter where you go. Plenty of it in backyards (just check out youtube), plenty of it at the biggest shows, and plenty of it in between. Hope this doesn't turn into a train wreck about how horrible "A" shows are.

mvp
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:40 AM
Conversely, I don't think its fair to assume that local-show people don't put the same thought, effort or time into their horses' care as does a pro trainer and grooms.

That's not true for me. In fact, I choose to show my horse locally in part because it works better for him to not spend weeks on the road living in tents and with no T/O to speak of.

This horse has the best of both worlds-- care management and riding that's every bit as careful as what you would expect at a top barn, but none of the pressure or consequences of being asked to stay competitive at the very top.

That having been said, I acquired the skills and standards of A-barns by working for them back in the day. If you have a chance to become a working student or groom, take it.

dags
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:23 AM
Conversely, I don't think its fair to assume that local-show people don't put the same thought, effort or time into their horses' care as does a pro trainer and grooms.

That's not true for me. In fact, I choose to show my horse locally in part because it works better for him to not spend weeks on the road living in tents and with no T/O to speak of. . . .

That having been said, I acquired the skills and standards of A-barns by working for them back in the day. If you have a chance to become a working student or groom, take it.


If you mean the "same" by virtue of ratio, then you are correct. If you mean the same quantitatively, then possibly not. It doesn't make any one lesser or greater than the other, but it is precisely because of the circumstances an A show horse must live in that they receive the tippest/toppest/bestest care an equine could ever dream of. What would be above and beyond care for a C circuit horse is essential for the health and happiness of an A circuit horse, tools you have taken down to a more local level and I'm sure they are all better off for it The best of both of these worlds should provide for their mount's every need, I don't think anyone was assuming otherwise besides the first 'no health and happiness on the A circuit' poster.

InWhyCee Redux
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:28 AM
The A Circuit goes much farther beyond what you see at the ring, and 9 times out of 10 the thought put into the horse's health, comfort and soundness will far exceed that which you see at the local levels.

A gross generalization. Have you ever heard of a show horse being electrocuted for the insurance money on the "local level"? Seen a horse being hit with a tack pole or shot up with Bute before every class on the "local level"?

What's it like being on the A Circuit? It's like attending a lot of very big, sometimes very glamorous, horse shows. Most of the people are wonderful, some are not, just like at any horse show.

ExJumper
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:34 AM
A gross generalization. Have you ever heard of a show horse being electrocuted for the insurance money on the "local level"? Seen a horse being hit with a tack pole or shot up with Bute before every class on the "local level"?

What's it like being on the A Circuit? It's like attending a lot of very big, sometimes very glamorous, horse shows. Most of the people are wonderful, some are not, just like at any horse show.

Only expensive horses would be worth insurance fraud. And it's by showing and being successful on the A circuit that horses increase or maintain their value. So that's not really a fair comparison.

And I've seen WAY more illegal training practices and ESPECIALLY drug infractions happen at local shows. Unrated shows don't have drug tests or stewards and lower rated shows are a lot easier to drug your horse at.

Whether you agree with a horse being on "The Circuit" or not, you can't really argue with the fact that the horses that ARE on the circuit get (for the most part) very very good care. If they didn't, they wouldn't last long, and where's the value in that?

superpony123
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:44 AM
Not a fair evaluation. The time for focusing on horsey health and happiness is not at the in-gate. The A Circuit goes much farther beyond what you see at the ring, and 9 times out of 10 the thought put into the horse's health, comfort and soundness will far exceed that which you see at the local levels. It's just done and taken care of before the horse ever steps foot on the show grounds.

agreed.

mvp
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:49 AM
I agree that care must be optimized to accommodate the day-in-day-out living conditions of a horse on the circuit. Time and effort are needed, for example, to make up for the lack of T/O and "down time" that often is minimal in show tents filled with music, lights and activity almost 24/7.

But, I can't tell you how many "been-there-done-that" horses put their ears back when they see you open their stall door with a grooming box in hand. It's as if they say, "Jesus! What do you want now?" Sometimes the shiny outside of a horse has a psychological cost.

The biggest A-circuit perk my horse lacks is a game ready icing machine. But he digs his turn out and time spent being dirty like a regular horse. When I do ask him to camp out at a multiple day show-- complete with portable stall mats, a thick bed of shavings, handwalking and grazing-- he complies.

It works well that we aren't on the circuit, so I have the deepest respect for those who keep their horses happy there!

ExJumper
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:55 AM
I think people who AREN'T on The Circuit overestimate the amount of work/stress that Circuit horses are under when they aren't showing and underestimate the amount of the horses DON'T spend showing. Most Circuit horses get jumped very infrequently when they aren't at shows. Many get entire months off in turnout during the "down" time. They get to roll in the mud just like everyone else for the most part.

There are a many people who are definitely on The Circuit on this board who board their horses at home or give them lots of time off. As usual, there are bad apples, but they shouldn't spoil the whole barrel. For every 1 person who works their horse into the ground and shows on The Circuit 50 weeks a year, there are 500 other horses being treated fairly and kindly.

superpony123
Apr. 9, 2009, 12:00 PM
i have gone to all levels of shows.

To be fair, I spend half the year doing locals and half the year at the A's (winter = local) (spring/summer = A's). I think I have a pretty good idea of what both are like, and compare them fairly, as ive been showing like this for years.

I don't put any less effort into a local show than I do an A show, except that I won't braid for a local show unless it's a local finals or something special to that extent. My pony is still bathed til he's white as snow. My boots are still so polished that they could look like patent leather. My clothes are clean and neat. My pony's mane is tidy (il admit that i did let it get away without a mane pulling once at a local a few months ago, and it was quite long for a hunter, but we were still res champ so it wasnt like it ruined our appearance.) I honestly see a lot more horse-show-horrors are local shows. Why? There aren't any USEF restrictions or stewards. You can get away with almost anything. Abuse and drugging goes along with this.

As for an A show, it's a lot harder to get away with some things, like drugs, becasue even though drug tests are not frequent, why would someone take the chance? They might say "well, what're the chances? they never test.." and then maybe that'll be the day they do. It's not to say that people don't ever drug at A shows, but i'd definitely say people are a LOT more cautious about it and less willing to do so. That being said, I don't agree with drugging your horse at all, but I don't think there's much that can be done about it.

As far as the A circuit being a "richpeople circus" .. not true. I am not rich, and I go to plenty of A's. I work hard and earn the money as a working student to get my show money. If I was rich, I wouldn't have to work! And that goes for many others. Tons of riders showin at the A's, many more than you think, are not rich. Now, sure, to go to WEF, I argee you have to be fairly wealthy. For me to afford WEF, I wouldn't be able to afford going to any other show all year, probably. But, for the A shows in my zone, yes, i can go. I can't go to HITS (saugerties) all season, but I can go for a whole week. If the A's were a rich people circuit, I wouldn't see backyard ponies and horses. I have to admit, this is a competitive zone (zone 2) and sometimes i want to ask someone "why are you even here?" because the divisions are huge and this horse clearly has zero chance, but hey, I've done the same, gone in with no chances, and came out with a ribbon once in a while; going to an A show is a really fun experience in general, especially if you don't normally go. I don't think it is fair to say all A shows are an equivalent to WEF. Most are big locally, and then theres a few really big AA's that everyone goes to, even from other states.(think HITS and stuff) I do honestly see better turnout of horse and rider much more frequently than at a local show. I see plenty of horses at local shows that have an appropriate turn-out, but often not the same "wow" factor you'd see at an A show. The horses aren't quite as shiny, etc.

I agree that horses on both circuits can be cared for equally as far as health and soundness, but it does seem that A circuit horses have a bit more $$ spent on them to give them an extra boost or more supplements, etc. (but once again, plenty of local and no-show horses can have the same treatment)


and, as for non-circuit-riders? my horse is actually MUCH happier at an A show than at a local show. He gets nervous and antsy if he has to sit in the trailer for more than a few hours (without it moving, i mean.) and he will get stiff if i dont take him out. If i take him out to walk him around or graze him (which i always do) he will get lazy and anxious. But if I can put him in a nice comfy stall at an A show and let him munch on his hay or drink his water and just hangout without being stuck in one spot, he is much happier, doesn't get lazy, anxious, tired, or anything.

Giddy-up
Apr. 9, 2009, 12:03 PM
In comparing the quality of care between the A & unrated local shows--the biggest reason I see is lack of education. I would then say followed by money cause let's face it--a lot of the higher quality care costs more money.

The local horses aren't loved any less, it's just many of those people haven't been exposed to other forms of horse care. If all you knew (cause that is what was done around you) was wrap your horse after you jump & give him some bute after a show day, you'd think that's it. But you go to another barn & holy cow--they have chiros & magnetic blankets & ice wraps & regular maintenance (hock injections for example)...it's a whole new world. Granted that kind of stuff costs money so if you aren't in a situation where money can easily be spent, you may never see those things.

I do show both A & unrateds. At the unrateds I sometimes see many things that could make the horse more comfortable, but the people don't know any better cause they haven't seen it or been exposed to it.

Rye
Apr. 9, 2009, 12:25 PM
IMO, it's like a sorority. Half the people you can't stand and you act like you do. Half the people are decent.

It's fun if you can focus on having fun with your horse, but it's easy to get sucked into the political BS and drama.

gjump
Apr. 9, 2009, 12:30 PM
A show is a show is a show.....

chawley
Apr. 9, 2009, 12:35 PM
It's the Rich People Circus.

Not necessarily. I've never been rich or even had a personal groom, but I've shown at many A shows over the years and done quite well.

While I've never hit the road and jumped from show to show, but I grew up in the business, and I'm quite familiar with it all. That being said, I agree with everything Lucasb said!

chawley
Apr. 9, 2009, 12:46 PM
I have mostly just played at the local level. I have however dabbled into the "A"s on occasion. My take away is that the "A" shows are not about horsemanship. They are about spending the money to play in the big leagues and sometimes getting it right. This is not to say that there are not good horsemen (and women) at this level! The focus is just not on the horses health and happiness as much as I would like it to be.

May be what you've experienced, unfortunately, but it's far from the truth. I've been in this 'world' my entire life, and hunter jumpers as a whole are very well cared for by extremely gifted horsemen. I should take as good of care of myself as I do my horse! haha You will always have those out there that have no business training a horse, but it's very hard to stay successful in this business for long if you don't take great care of your horses.

Parker_Rider
Apr. 9, 2009, 01:06 PM
IMO, it's like a sorority. Half the people you can't stand and you act like you do. Half the people are decent.

It's fun if you can focus on having fun with your horse, but it's easy to get sucked into the political BS and drama.

LOL, I'd say this observation is indicative of the whole horse show world!! I loved 90% of the girls in my sorority, but the other 10%... man... and I'd say that's how I am at the AA circuit shows I've been to. Love most of the people, they're good people who love their horses and genuinely wouldn't want to hurt them and do everything possible to keep them healthy and happy. And then there's the 10% you hear about most often: those who abuse their horses, stick bits of glass in their boots to make them lighter on the front end, who will shoot them up with anything and everything to make them not appear lame and make the horse go anyway. You just don't hear "Oh man, did you see KB the other day petting her horse and spoiling him? She really looked concerned when the vet was checking out the bruise her horse picked up from a stone on the walkway!" because it's not as exciting as "Oh, MD got suspended for abusing his horse in the warm up ring!!"

Overall, I love the A circuit. I used to show in CHJA shows every single weekend with my TB, and we did 10-15 classes a weekend (I now cringe at that...). It is an adjustment going from paying less to do more to paying more to do less, I'll say that. But I wouldn't trade the A circuit for the local one any day. It's so much less hectic, it's got a more relaxed feel to it when you're not running around like a chicken with your head cut off to make it to your 6 classes a day in 2 rings on one horse.
It's a heck of a lot easier and makes it more fun to just bury your head in the sand, obey the rules, show your horse, be friendly to people but keep yourself from getting sucked into the drama. When I ask you how the show is going, I want to know how your horse is, not what your trainer did to screw you over this week. :)
It's a good time. Love it.

showmom858
Apr. 9, 2009, 01:06 PM
My D shows both our competitive local circuit and has done A and AA shows too. The only difference for us is that the horse is not braided at the local show unless it is the finals. Both the horse and my D are turned out to the nines for any show they are in and the trainer schools them both the same for either show.

This year with the economy down my D is picking and choosing her shows carefully. She will do more local shows this year and do the A shows that are "fun" for the whole family. We like to go away to an A show or two and make it a vacation rather than doing the ones here in town!

dags
Apr. 9, 2009, 01:43 PM
Overall, I love the A circuit. I used to show in CHJA shows every single weekend with my TB, and we did 10-15 classes a weekend (I now cringe at that...). It is an adjustment going from paying less to do more to paying more to do less, I'll say that. But I wouldn't trade the A circuit for the local one any day. It's so much less hectic, it's got a more relaxed feel to it when you're not running around like a chicken with your head cut off to make it to your 6 classes a day in 2 rings on one horse.


This is a good point and may be the distinguishing feature between a show, and a "show", as some imply there is not. Yes you arrive to compete, but the entire atmosphere changes when your actual 20 minutes in the show ring is spread out over 3 days, and you're there a day early even to school in those finishing touches. Everything slows down, horse gets out for nice long walks because there is nothing else to do, groomed top to bottom and then all over again. Learn your course and go over it mentally for 3 hours if you like, while munching a sandwich under a shade tree, overlooking the 6 yo Young Jumper Classic. Drag your filthy and exhausted self to dinner, with 8 other people of the same ilk, because everybody's got to eat. Stay over on Mondays after the horses ship home because showing gives you an excuse to go to cool places like Colorado and Traverse City. Convince darling hubby to foot the bill for Pebble because that's 3 days of uninterrupted golf for him :D Go for a stroll with your beast at dusk on the Rolex Xcountry course or any of the awesome venues attached to miles of trails, because he's not all used up at the end of the day. Check on him at midnight to find him curled in a ball on the floor of his stall, tucked in in his wraps and his fuzzy blankets, shavings sticking out of every braid and on the tip of his droopy lip as he dozes, head inches from the floor, bobbing silently with each breath . . . sigh, you'll have to pick each one of those shavings out tomorrow, but it is so worth it for the absolute peace of the moment.

That, on a perfect day in a pretty good world, is the A Circuit.

MissMaryMack
Apr. 9, 2009, 02:03 PM
Definitely not jumping to conclusions. There is a girl on the local circuit here that goes in 44 classes over two days. Yes, 22 classes on Saturday, and 22 classes on Sunday. Classes from the 2ft jumpers to the 2'6 hunters and everything in between. She was the lucky winner of the year end award for the most points. :sigh:

I think you see bad horsemanship no matter where you go. Plenty of it in backyards (just check out youtube), plenty of it at the biggest shows, and plenty of it in between. Hope this doesn't turn into a train wreck about how horrible "A" shows are.

Wow!! All on the same horse?

supershorty628
Apr. 9, 2009, 02:09 PM
Someone made a good point earlier about the fact that the A circuit horses get time off just as the local circuit horses do. Take All About Me, for example, the medium pony who was champion (and correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe he was grand pony champion as well) at Washington last year. He was qualified already from being champion the year before, and was pulled out of the field for the show after having a fair amount of time off. He wasn't run into the ground and must have been well cared for if he was able to perform as he did. My horse did the junior jumpers last year at several of the big A shows (Vermont, HITS, Syracuse, etc.), and had the entire winter off from jumping. She is just starting to jump again now and will begin showing next month - she didn't have the winter off entirely, as we did do extensive flatwork - but it gave her joints a rest for a few months.

I'm going to echo Mel0309's statement: I hope this doesn't turn into a train wreck about how horrible A shows are and how A circuit riders/trainers/owners are not horsemen...

Gwendolyn
Apr. 9, 2009, 02:23 PM
This is a good point and may be the distinguishing feature between a show, and a "show", as some imply there is not. Yes you arrive to compete, but the entire atmosphere changes when your actual 20 minutes in the show ring is spread out over 3 days, and you're there a day early even to school in those finishing touches. Everything slows down, horse gets out for nice long walks because there is nothing else to do, groomed top to bottom and then all over again. Learn your course and go over it mentally for 3 hours if you like, while munching a sandwich under a shade tree, overlooking the 6 yo Young Jumper Classic. Drag your filthy and exhausted self to dinner, with 8 other people of the same ilk, because everybody's got to eat. Stay over on Mondays after the horses ship home because showing gives you an excuse to go to cool places like Colorado and Traverse City. Convince darling hubby to foot the bill for Pebble because that's 3 days of uninterrupted golf for him :D Go for a stroll with your beast at dusk on the Rolex Xcountry course or any of the awesome venues attached to miles of trails, because he's not all used up at the end of the day. Check on him at midnight to find him curled in a ball on the floor of his stall, tucked in in his wraps and his fuzzy blankets, shavings sticking out of every braid and on the tip of his droopy lip as he dozes, head inches from the floor, bobbing silently with each breath . . . sigh, you'll have to pick each one of those shavings out tomorrow, but it is so worth it for the absolute peace of the moment.

That, on a perfect day in a pretty good world, is the A Circuit.


Awwwww I LOVE this!!!! Ironically, this (most parts of it) is how I show at the locals. Get there a day early, do one division a day, hang out, handwalk my horse all over so she can have the yummy grass at the side of the ring, take the whole crew (complete in breeches) to Cracker Barrel....

I agree with those who say that there are good and bad people at both levels. My 2 cents is that (usually) when owners are paying more for their horses and more for entry fees, they have the money to pay more for the horse's care. They spend more money on the vet, farrier, massage therapist, etc.

However, there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule.

used2
Apr. 9, 2009, 03:30 PM
dags got it right. I would add - standing in a drizzle, ankle deep in mud, watching some horse and rider I really don't know put in a near perfect ride is more sunshine than I could ever find at the office.

SoCo
Apr. 9, 2009, 04:55 PM
A show is a show is a show.....

I must say I agree ... i went from doing all of the local shows then stepped up to the A shows and I was absolutely terrified. I thought the juniors in my 15-17 division were going to blow me out of the water and make me look like i've never ridden in my life.

I soon realized that it *is* just a horse show. At the A's people still make mistakes, horses still miss lead changes & goes "wtf is that" at a jump (which i know isn't always their fault) just like people and horses at the local shows do.

You will also see a lot of trainers bring their babies or some of the horses they are prepping from the bigger shows (b/c they've been off duty) to the locals which is always cool. You get a mix of competition and you can really tell who is "taking care" of their horses.

Regardless of whether it's local or A we still generally treat our horses the same. They get top notch excellent care to ensure they will have a enjoyable time being there, physically and mentally. If not .. they'll just end up "show sour" I will say that the circuit horses do get a little extra something special (not like drugs or anything) just b/c they are on the road and it is more demanding. They are all happy little horsies who are healthy and enjoy their jobs.

`reppy
Apr. 9, 2009, 09:30 PM
For me, the most interesting part of those shows is watching the schooling rings. Seeing the lessons and warmups done by the top professionals, watching really good riders schooling their horses, and then seeing the performance that that preparation delivers in the ring is terrific.



:yes: I LOVE watching the schooling rings. My favorite is Devon. You can sit under the trees right next to the ring and the jumps are probably ten feet away. You get to hear everything. I learn so much, its great!

2016 RoyalCrown KTug
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:22 PM
Not a fair evaluation. The time for focusing on horsey health and happiness is not at the in-gate. The A Circuit goes much farther beyond what you see at the ring, and 9 times out of 10 the thought put into the horse's health, comfort and soundness will far exceed that which you see at the local levels. It's just done and taken care of before the horse ever steps foot on the show grounds.

Absolutely correct.

Regarding the OPs question -- Je.suis and Lucassb defined it perfectly in my eyes. . Its long and hard yet fabulous and fun. In the end it is all worth it in my eyes. Its the times that your dedication, hard work, time and energy pay off- when you win, that makes it so special. . to have that single, perfect moment of pure glory with your horse as you lead the victory gallop or walk in for your ribbon

bascher
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:29 PM
Not necessarily. I've never been rich or even had a personal groom, but I've shown at many A shows over the years and done quite well.


Same here, I've done Devon, Harrisburg, and multiple other A shows and I wouldn't consider myself "uber-wealthy," I don't have a personal groom, etc.

drawreins
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:29 PM
I find no need to add my thoughts to this because I think all the posts above me clearly defined what it's like to be on the circuit.

However, when you are a professional and you live the "circuit," you spend many nights in hotels, eat many of your meals at restaraunts, travel countless miles to horse shows, and spend hours along side the ring covered in dirt and grime. But, nothing is better than going back to the stalls at the end of the day and seeing your short stirrup rider giving her pony a dozen kisses on the nose and a handful of carrots. Those moments make it all worth it.

bascher
Apr. 9, 2009, 10:33 PM
Someone made a good point earlier about the fact that the A circuit horses get time off just as the local circuit horses do. Take All About Me, for example, the medium pony who was champion (and correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe he was grand pony champion as well) at Washington last year. He was qualified already from being champion the year before, and was pulled out of the field for the show after having a fair amount of time off. He wasn't run into the ground and must have been well cared for if he was able to perform as he did. My horse did the junior jumpers last year at several of the big A shows (Vermont, HITS, Syracuse, etc.), and had the entire winter off from jumping. She is just starting to jump again now and will begin showing next month - she didn't have the winter off entirely, as we did do extensive flatwork - but it gave her joints a rest for a few months.

I'm going to echo Mel0309's statement: I hope this doesn't turn into a train wreck about how horrible A shows are and how A circuit riders/trainers/owners are not horsemen...

You are correct on All About Me. He qualified from being champion the year before, spent almost the entire year in a field, and was pulled out right before indoors of the next year. I do know where he was at during that year, and he received excellent care and some well deserved time off :)

I know with one of my friends who does the junior jumpers, she often elects not to show her horse in every junior jumper class and save him for the classics so he is not run into the ground, overworked, or overjumped. And giving him that lighter schedule has certainly paid off for the two of them!

SoCo
Apr. 9, 2009, 11:41 PM
I might also add that ... showing or even being a groom at the A shows .. there's something different in the "air" this odd intoxicating ambiance .. especially when you are there early in the morning and you're getting everything ready.

ProzacPuppy
Apr. 10, 2009, 07:40 AM
Mel - 44 classes - Seems a bit much unless there are multiple horses involved. Still would be incredibly expensive.

My horse did the jumpers and the nomination fees (which could be hundreds of dollars) it could get pretty expensive.

A shows that were only for a week or so and within the immediate regional area weren't as financially painful.

The bigger AA shows where trainer, rider and horse went for multiple weeks were expensive (trailering was always over $1000) and included meals and hotel for the trainer and rider in addition to all the show fees. Alot of the shows allow you to pay extra for a small postage stamp size "turnout". There are all the extra stalls for tack, grooming, lounge etc. Which is fine if there is a large contingent from the barn to share it but can be expensive if there are only a few clients sharing the costs.

The atmosphere at the big shows is tons of fun. I only went along to watch, lend a hand and pay but I enjoyed them immensely. There are always exhibitor parties (the luau at Gulfport complete with groom karioke), breakfasts, happy hours.

But it gets tiring after a couple weeks - all that hurry up and wait, all the early mornings. And there always seems to be at least one late night vet call for one of the horses.

I was always happy to get home.
But I loved going to the shows at least for the first week.

SoCo - One of my favorite times at shows is when I volunteer to be the the early morning "prep". The barns at 4:30 or 5 am - the mist on the fields, the soft rustling and nickering of the waking horses, that "horsey" smell, the quiet before the chaos.

ExJumper
Apr. 10, 2009, 08:28 AM
Mel - 44 classes - Seems a bit much unless there are multiple horses involved. Still would be incredibly expensive.

Not necessarily. At some local shows (not lower rated shows, but real "local" shows) you can pay one fee and go in as many classes as you want. I've also seen kids go in every.single.class all day long.

Silk
Apr. 10, 2009, 09:47 AM
I think the OP was asking what its like to "live" on the circuit, particularly what a typical week or month is for someone like CBoylen. Otherwise, I can tell you that I have been to some large, unrated "fairs" where there is more activity, competition and hoopla than some A shows.

happyridergrl
Apr. 10, 2009, 10:09 AM
in response to what silk said above about living on the circuit... it is the best thing in the world. i've taken the year off just to ride and show, and i'm having the time of my life. getting to spend all day every day doing something i love, it's amazing. there's something about the big shows that brings the excitement of the competition into the air... i don't exactly know how to describe it. i've been on the road with my trainers practically all year, of course the horses are rotated and they all get their time off. and it pains me to think people believe that horses who show at the big shows aren't getting the proper care, i think it is quite the opposite. i know for me, we are always checking and double checking the horses and their wants and needs - looking out for the smallest hint of trouble and having even the silliest things noted and bringing the vets out. they're getting more than the care necessary. putting that topic aside, living on the circuit is just so much fun.. i love being with my horses and my friends, we all just have a fun time. i love the work involved when helping my trainers out, and i love even just going and watching any of the classes go. i'm bummed to have to go to school in the fall, but i guess all good things must come to an end to some extent! i'll still be on the road... just, doing college on the side :)
edited after seeing maras post...
i know a lot of people who don't get to see their horse that much... while my horses live with my trainer in another state, i still am able to see them way more than one would think.. and i do have that bond with them.. where i come into the barn and they all whinney, i know all their funny quirks and they know mine. i think that having that bond is so important. when i'm at the barn or shows i make it a point to spend almost all of my time with the horses, taking them out and grazing them or just hanging out in their stall - i take advantage of my time with them, and i'm lucky to get to see them way more often than not

Mara
Apr. 10, 2009, 10:09 AM
The aspect I will never understand with regard to the "A" circuit is this:

What is the POINT of having a horse you rarely get to see, and thus not establish a bond with, because the horse lives with and travels with a trainer, who often is located hours away from the owner??? I know this is not the situation in (I dare say) most cases, but really. To me, the big fun in having a horse is that you've got a buddy to do cool stuff with, which includes trail riding, showing, spending quiet time grooming, handwalking/grazing, or even just watching your pal enjoy himself acting like a fool in the paddock. And people pay a trainer to do all of the above? Don't get it.

Again, I know there are plenty of people on the "A" circuit who "do" their own horses and have a strong bond with them. Should I ever have the means to join that group, I am so there. I think it's way cooler to have an equine friend and companion to share show experience with than it is to have a wall full of ribbons and trophies won by the trainer on the horse you haven't seen in four months.

WorthTheWait95
Apr. 10, 2009, 10:23 AM
The aspect I will never understand with regard to the "A" circuit is this:

What is the POINT of having a horse you rarely get to see, and thus not establish a bond with, because the horse lives with and travels with a trainer, who often is located hours away from the owner??? I know this is not the situation in (I dare say) most cases, but really. To me, the big fun in having a horse is that you've got a buddy to do cool stuff with, which includes trail riding, showing, spending quiet time grooming, handwalking/grazing, or even just watching your pal enjoy himself acting like a fool in the paddock. And people pay a trainer to do all of the above? Don't get it.

Again, I know there are plenty of people on the "A" circuit who "do" their own horses and have a strong bond with them. Should I ever have the means to join that group, I am so there. I think it's way cooler to have an equine friend and companion to share show experience with than it is to have a wall full of ribbons and trophies won by the trainer on the horse you haven't seen in four months.


I often wondered that as well, not so much for the ammies as for the juniors. I think for ammies that work full time they really have no choice. If they want to show at the top level and be able to pay for it the horse is going to have to go with the trainer and they'll just show up on weekends. I can't really imagine paying that much $$ for a horse I only saw on weekends either but different people have different goals.

In high school I pretty much lived on the AA circuit, including some winters in FLA...pretty much the whole deal. I had 2-3 horses and did everything for them except clean stalls at the shows (included in our board at home). I can't imagine having those horses and NOT getting to know them or spend time with them

I remember people giving me strange looks when I would take one of my horses out to a field bareback to let him graze or just stretch his legs. I was one of very few kids that ever did anything like that with their horses at shows.

:shrug: I don't know I always enjoyed spending time with the boys and knowing everything about them. A lot of my friends didn't do much with their horses aside from riding...they would just hand them off to a groom. I would have to do that occasionally as well but it was only when I had more then one horse in a class and I always made sure I was the one to wrap them and do the last once over in the evening even if I didn't have time to bathe/groom/untack them after.

I think the reason a lot of the ammies that don't work full time don't do stuff like that is that the trainers have them terrified of 'ruining' their horses. Many of the ammies I rode with were too scared to even walk up on their horse from the stalls to the ring fully tacked which I always found kind of sad.

luvs2ridewbs
Apr. 10, 2009, 10:28 AM
I believe you are describing the situation of "absentee owners". Personally, I think it just comes down to your motivation and goals. Some see showing the circuit as a way to bond with their horse, become serious with their riding, and have an enjoyable time. Others like the prestige of the circuit and owning show horses. This type of "absentee owner" is more interested in the status and winning ribbons and less about being involved. Think about race horses owners, its more like that. (note: i'm not saying either one is better then the other b/c i don't believe you can make a value judgement on the nature of someone else's happiness.)

Trixie
Apr. 10, 2009, 10:34 AM
What is the POINT of having a horse you rarely get to see, and thus not establish a bond with, because the horse lives with and travels with a trainer, who often is located hours away from the owner??? I know this is not the situation in (I dare say) most cases, but really. To me, the big fun in having a horse is that you've got a buddy to do cool stuff with, which includes trail riding, showing, spending quiet time grooming, handwalking/grazing, or even just watching your pal enjoy himself acting like a fool in the paddock. And people pay a trainer to do all of the above? Don't get it.

Horses are different things to different people. There is not any one "right" way as long as the horses are happy, healthy, and cared for. Whoever said you can’t make value judgments on the nature of someone else’s happiness is spot on.

Mara
Apr. 10, 2009, 10:38 AM
Please understand, I'm not making a value judgment. I just can't relate. As long as the horses are happy and well-cared for, that's the main thing.

Tini Sea Soldier
Apr. 10, 2009, 11:28 AM
Just my two cents here...

But after years of doing C-rated stuff... and the occasional A-show with my horse, I did the A stuff for a year with a pony investment.

BEST EXPERIENCE EVER.

My trainer, our pony jock, and myself all still hold that year as our favorite.

Why? Bc although it's alot of set-up and breakdown... alot of hurry-up and wait... alot of "on the road again"... it's also stupid memories, barn bonding with your neighbors, dinners together that become silly bc you're delirious from being up since 5am. Even with a groom for 2 or 3 ponies and a first year horse... we were still always working as a team. The teamwork was what got us through the frustrations of a perfect trip except for a swap to the long approach oxer... or the occasional spook bc of a speaker hidden in a flower display after 2 perfect trips! It was the teamwork that allowed us to celebrate even more when one of both mediums walked away with champion and reserve. I've had some great friendships and good times at local/C shows... but nothing compared to the ridiculous bonds we made from travelling all over God's creation.

Another thing that I liked about A shows (for all those complaining about the costs)... YOU GET $$$ BACK WHEN U WIN! I looked at my budgeting for my horse when I was chasing for A/A points at C-rated shows... and what I spent on the investment pony doing the greens at A shows... and quite honestly, when the pony was on... we got most of our entries covered! This is one of the reasons why we actually chose alot of A shows over B-rated ones.

I don't see anything really wrong with C-rated or local shows... but it's definitely a different world. I'm taking a break from all of it now, but if I was to go back, you can bet it I would attend a few bigger A shows, rather than more local/C shows. JMHO.

dags
Apr. 10, 2009, 11:41 AM
I believe there are variations to the equine bond, which is why there are so many levels of horse ownership, all valued equally by the owners.

For me horses have truly evolved to a sport. Of course I still love the bond, the quiet hugs, that warm spot under their blanket in the middle of winter . . . but I am sooo enamored of the horse's physical power and ability to perform, and perpetually infatuated by the way riding teaches us to harness it, then release it. When I school lateral movements and I get those 3-5 steps of perfection, 3-5 steps that were light years beyond the power and feel of the 3-5 steps after or before, I am stunned that something already so amazing can become even better with the right aids, timing, program, health, conditioning, etc.

Showing is the utmost extension of that. For those of us that actually thrive on producing a performance horse, and all the endless series of 3-5 steps it takes to get there, it is the ultimate realization of the horse as an athlete.

Some will always do it for the ribbons. And some are stuck with this infatuation of the horse as an athlete, but lack the talent or time to give the horse the best chance to reach his highest potential. These are some of your absentee owners.

mvp
Apr. 10, 2009, 11:49 AM
If you have the money and time in the first place....all you have left to do is figure out if that expensive life lines up with your values. Its all good so long as money and values align.

_downpour_
Apr. 11, 2009, 05:11 AM
thanks for the replies everyone, it's good to hear everybody's experiences


I think the OP was asking what its like to "live" on the circuit, particularly what a typical week or month is for someone like CBoylen. Otherwise, I can tell you that I have been to some large, unrated "fairs" where there is more activity, competition and hoopla than some A shows.

Yes, that's what I was meaning, should have been a bit clearer about it!

ProzacPuppy
Apr. 11, 2009, 07:49 AM
I know a couple people (college age) who fly in to ride or for the occasional lesson on their horses. Most have a string of really nice horses and are doing it for advancement in the sport. They have aspirations of intl level riding, possibly Olympic or World Cup level.

With regards to the number of classes done - I was just contrasting the multi classes with my own experience. Trainer never let the horse do more than 2 classes a day and usually only 6 classes in a full week. Some weeks the horse only did 2 or 3 classes. Granted they were bigger jumpers - Welcome Stake, an Jr/AO and the Grand Prix or Mini Prix.

CBoylen
Apr. 11, 2009, 06:35 PM
Well, since someone called my name ;).....

what do kids in school do while living on the circuit re: school? Also, college students?
When I was in school I had a tutor for large stretches of time like FL. For other shows I would generally leave Thursday and just keep up with the work myself. Exams and tests had to be taken early if they were going to be missed. Usually that meant I took all my finals early, since Devon always hit finals time. College was easy, I chose a college near my trainer, over-scheduled Mondays both semesters so I could limit all my classes to before 1pm the rest of the week, and went to the barn every afternoon. I scheduled no classes for Thurs or Fri during the spring semester and flew to FL every Weds night and back Sun night.

Do parents usually travel with their children, if so how do they make a living? My mother has been at every single horse show I've ever gone to, but she was going to horse shows long before I came around ;). Some parents send their kids with their trainer, or appoint one parent to be in charge of multiple kids.

How long are you away from home at a time? Where do the horses stay - on the showgrounds all the time? Even when not showing? Do you show every day, for how many weeks? Do you travel between states, if so, how, flying, driving??
For the past few years we have only done blocks of four weeks of shows at the most, excluding FL, which is Dec-April. FL we've usually had off grounds stalls, and always have paddocks. Otherwise, the horses live on the showgrounds unless they are at home. When I was a junior though the horses lived in SC, which is not a show-central location, and once we headed out for the summer there was no way to break it up and lay over at home. That meant about 20 weeks straight on the road, usually something along the lines of TN, PA, VA, CT, NY, VT, NH, RI, NY, MD, PA, DC, NY . Occasionally we would lay over at someone's farm for a week or so, and we'd rotate which horses showed which weeks. I usually show four days a week since I try to have a young horse to do during the week as well as older ones that usually show on the weekend. We've always driven, caravan style generally with a number of vehicles.

How many horses do you typically take away? What's it like for the grooms, how many of them? How long do you typically stay at one show for before you move onto the next? Do you stay in hotels or with the horses?
Every barn I've been at generally travels with around 20 horses and about 5 grooms. Shows typically you set up on Monday and leave on Sunday, although if it's a multiple show location you get a nice Monday at least partially off. We've usually had a camper, most people stay in motels. Some places obviously don't have facilities for campers.

beenanddone
Apr. 11, 2009, 07:37 PM
i have been everything from a kid showing in high school and in college, a working student and a groom. Some at the same time. Circuit is fun, long and tiring.

Basicly:

Ship in on Tues. settle in a school the horses in the afternoon. Some kids take school off some come right after school depending where we are. (I was in FL)

For me, my classes have pretty much always been on the weekends unless i was riding in one of the schooling jumper classes with our young horses. So Wed was a light hack/trail day. Thurs is light jumping. Fri is hack again Sat- Sun is showing.

The week is busy for some reason you always have to be there at 5:30 even though your class won't start till 1:00 and you're 40th of 110 to go and you have to wait to test afterwards. haha

For everyone. grooms/trainers/kids/show-moms. There is a lot of walking around the vendors eating bacon egg and cheese sandwiches and learning what your favorite type of iced tea will be. haha. Your day may feel like its going 100 miles a minute but in 10 minutes there will be a 3 hour gap till your next class. You will go out to eat a lot and memorize the menu of your barn's favorite place (there is one everyone agrees on). You'll meet people from other places. You'll go out to parties with those people. It will be fun! :)

Some moms and dads come, some don't. Its really a question of preference.

Its a looonnnggg week, but the season seems to be over in a heart beat once its time to pack up and ship out.

If you plan on being a groom expect to have long hours and work way harder then you thought you were capable of working. Don't expect to be thanked, but be gracious anyway. The horses are amazing and beautiful. You will see horrible riders barely clinging on to their 200k horse and you will see incredible trips by talented people. You are behind the scenes! Listen, Learn, watch everyone! Bond with the horses you care for. It makes the job more worth-while.

Blood, sweat and tears aside, being on the circuit was some of the best weeks/months/years :) of my entire life. Win or lose its something really special that only the people who do it get.